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Wind turbine transmission line worries council

West Perth council has concerns over a proposed transmission line from the Grand Bend wind turbine project that will run along Hibbert ward.

At council’s Oct. 9 meeting, CAO Will Jaques informed council that Northland Power is proposing a 230 kV line running for approximately 12 km down Road 183, which is the boundary between Hibbert ward and Huron East. The line would start a little more than a mile and a quarter south of Highway 8 and run to the West Perth / South Huron boundary.

The poles could be about 100 feet in height and located about 100 metres apart. Cables would hang on the inside of the poles, eliminating the need for easements on properties along the way.

Jaques said that Northland Power, the Neegan Burnside and Burnside engineering firms, and West Perth, South Huron and Huron East representatives met Sept. 25. He said that at the meeting, Northland Power seemed “more open” to the idea of compensating West Perth for hosting the transmission line, whether through a “vibrancy fund” and/or road user agreements.

But even with the promise of compensation, West Perth council wasn’t thrilled with the idea of the transmission line.

“There are still a lot of people who are very much it against it,” said Hibbert ward councillor Barb MacLean about the wind turbine project, calling it “too close to home.”

Deputy mayor Bill French said that he had spoken with the mayor of Wolfe Island, which hosts wind turbines and in-ground transmission lines.

“The townships did not get enough for what it’s costing them,” he said, adding that the wind turbine companies “called the shots on almost every road.”

He noted there are several private air strips in the Grand Bend Wind Farm area, including Hibbert. He said there have been clashes between air strip owners and turbine companies in the Orangeville area.

“If we go along with it, we’ve got to make sure we get enough money out of this for these lines coming down our right of ways,” he said.

Other councillors were concerned with the power running through the 230 kV line, saying that they preferred underground lines for safety. Jaques said that his understanding was that the lines won’t be transmitting “dirty power” although the hydro won’t be completely refined, either.

Jaques noted that “significant stretches” of the road don’t have any distribution lines. West Perth hosts most of the existing Hydro One distribution lines on the road. Jaques said municipal representatives made it clear to Northland Power that lines should be co-located wherever possible.

“We’re hoping that they will try to co-locate because otherwise that’s quite a narrow corridor to be running two separate hydro lines, it’ll be almost like a tunnel,” said Jaques.

Jaques said West Perth operations manager Mike Kraemer has been speaking with other municipalities about compensation figures, but noted that Northland Power wants to work out a road user agreement with Bluewater municipality, which has the most involvement with the project, first.

West Perth council voted to send a letter to Northland outlining their concerns and requesting that clean power be sent through the transmission line.

“I don’t think we should be enabling this kind of approach if it’s not really something we want to force on our ratepayers,” said Coun. John Nater.

“Why can’t we just say no?” asked MacLean.

But with the province’s Green Energy Act restricting municipalities from blocking wind turbine projects, the likelihood of West Perth prohibiting a transmission line is very low.

“As I understand it, if they want to locate in our right of way, they can,” said Jaques.

McKenzie said he wanted to know why Road 183 was selected for the transmission line. Previously, another route from Highway 83 to Highway 23 had also been suggested as a possibility.

Lyle Parsons, Neegan Burnside project manager for the Grand Bend Wind Farm, told the Advocate that there are several reasons why Road 183 was chosen. He said the Highway 83 to 23 route would have passed through more populated areas and environmentally sensitive areas, as well as being “considerably longer”.

A public meeting will be held in Mitchell by the Grand Bend Wind Farm project on Nov. 28 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Mitchell and District Community Centre. Documents on the project are available at the municipal office and at grandbend.northlandpower.ca.